Post-Mortem Care

Post mortem care means care of the body after death.  Be sensitive to the needs of the family after death occurs.  Family members or friends may wish to sit by the bed to say goodbye.  Be aware of religious practices that the family wants to observe.  Home health agencies will also have different policies on postmortem care.  Always follow your agency’s policies and procedures.  Perform assigned tasks.

  • Bathe the body. Be gentle to avoid bruising.  Place drainage pads where needed, most often under the head and /or under the perineum.  Be sure to follow standard precautions.
  • Check with family about how to dress the client and whether to remove jewelry.
  • Do not remove any tubes or other equipment. A nurse or the funeral home will do it later.
  • Put dentures back in the mouth and close the mouth. You may need to place a rolled towel under the chin to support the closed mouth position.  Or you can place dentures in a denture cup near the client’s head.
  • Close the eyes carefully.
  • Position the body on the back, with legs straight, arms folded across the abdomen. Place a small pillow under the head.
  • Strip the bed after the body has been removed.
  • Open windows to air the room, as appropriate, and straighten up.
  • Arrange personal items carefully so they are not lost.
  • Document according to your agency’s policy.

Ask family members or friends how you can be of help.  If you are working with a hospice program, you may be asked to answer the phone, make coffee or a meal, supervise children, or keep family members company.  Do not leave the home until the client’s body has been removed or until your supervisor says you may leave.